bulk in Austin, TX

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Hayley G. Hayley G.
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bulk in Austin, TX

Hello All,

I just read your book Bea, and it's fantastic! Finally a practical scheme/system/toolkit to help fit zero waste practices into our schedules! Is anyone else here in Austin? I'd love to get your tips on where you shop. Here are mine:

WHEATSVILLE CO-OP (Guadalupe location, though a S. Lamar location is coming in August or September!!!)
I've been a member for years and love this place. Just take your bulk containers to the front counter when you go in and they'll write the tare weight on them. You can also purchase glass jars individually in the bulk section and the checkers have the tare weights at the register. I just did a ZW trip there and the deli was happy to put our sausage order in a jar (we got the paper though, and a barcode sticker). They have a great selection of personal care items (shampoo, conditioner, lotion, liquid soap). My only qualm - which I hope is corrected when they open up the south location - is that dried fruits or "soft" bulk items are pre-packaged in mostly non-reusable plastic bags. I'm not sure if this is a space thing (probably) or what, but I don't buy bulk fruit there b/c of this wasteful practice. They also have the best sustainable seafood selection (i.e. they stick to the most sustainable, and don't carry 'no' fish!) and often have Texas gulf coast fish/shellfish available.

CENTRAL MARKET (S. Lamar)
THey just opened up a refill station for Biokleen HE laundry soaps and greatly expanded their bulk section and bulk coffee section. I just did my first ZW trip there today and even though they don't advertise it, just take your containers to a member of the bulk section staff and they'll weigh your empty container. Then you fill it and bring it back to them and they'll take it in the back and manually subtract the tare weight and give you a sticker. Janie helped me today and said that you could do this with any bulk item - liquids and dry. Their system is a little clunky, but they were happy to do it, so just ask. (Haven't tried this at N. Lamar yet). Their bakery has dozens of breads, bagels, pastries and muffins (but strangely, not rolls) unwrapped that you can stick in a pillowcase and mark with the PLU (though the PLU I gave the checker didn't work, make sure to mentally note the price and name of bread in case they ask or need to look it up - or you can get a sticker). I never weigh my own produce here because I don't want to waste a sticker - they can look it up at the register if they don't know it by heart. Also has an olive bar, soup and salad bar, prepared foods bar that I haven't tried using my own containers for yet.

IN.GREDIENTS
The ultimate zero waste shopping experience! Unfortunately they use stickers to barcode jars after you weigh them, so there's a little waste there, but the stickers last several visits. Most of the frozen meats are local but shrink-wrapped in plastic. You can refill beer/wine here, and local kombucha. My only complaint is that they're a bit pricey - but they're a small local business without the buying power of Whole Foods and Central Market, so it's understandable.

WHOLE FOODS (Arbor Trails)
I haven't tried taking my own containers to bulk yet but this location is the newest and has a great beer/wine bar where you can fill growlers with lots of stuff on tap, including a couple of wines (see selection on taplister: http://www.taplister.com/bars/4f8c797de4b013a98357a9ad?utm_source=twitter). Has anyone tried taking their own containers to an Austin WF? Also has an olive bar.

JUICE LAND (formerly Daily Juice)
They will put your smoothie or fresh juice in your container. BUT...you cannot bring your own container for juice cleanses, which are made off-site. However, they do come in 16 oz glass reusable jars that I've now converted to bulk use. If you did the cleanses often, you'd be overrun with jars!

JUICE BOX / SOUP PEDDLER (S. Lamar)
Juice box put my juice in my own container this week. Haven't tried to see whether they'll put your soup in one, which is usually shrink-wrapped in plastic.

OTHER
I know that the Sprouts "Farmer's Market" locations all have bulk, but I've never tried taking my own containers there. Has anyone tried Walton's Fancy & Staple? Anderson's Coffee? There's always The Drought House where you can fill your growler (see what they have on-tap here: http://www.draughthouse.com/ON.TAP.widget.html). Henri's Cheese Shop on S. Lamar has a good selection of cheeses they cut when you order them - I haven't tried it yet but imagine they'd be happy to use my container (Central Market, WF, and Wheatsville sell almost all of their cheeses already cut and shrink-wrapped). Antonelli's Cheese Shop?

CANNING JARS / Glass Containers (from least to most expensive).
Surprisingly, I think Breeds & Co. might have the best selection of both of these with decent prices, except for maybe Callahan's (if you are up for the trip). Randalls (S. Manchaca / Ben White) has an OK selection of Ball jars above the frozen desserts.Central market South Lamar has a very meager selection and is often sold out.  Tree House (next to Central Market S. Lamar) has a good selection of canning jars and reusable containers as well, though it's probably the most expensive.

PETS
Buck Moore Feeds (N. Lamar) is the best for organic chicken feed, oyster shell, and other pet foods in bulk (and also by the 50# paper bag); they also have large (plastic, though) bags of rice hulls to use for nest box bedding, though I'm changing over to paper I shred at home. Callahans also has a few animal feeds in bulk (I think). Whole Foods and Central Market have a small selection of bulk dog and cat foods (dry). Any other recommendations for bulk (senior) cat food would be appreciated.
Angela Angela
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Re: bulk in Austin, TX

This makes me miss Austin so very much. I am now in Houston and it is not as ZW friendly!
Susan Susan
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Re: bulk in Austin, TX

Thank you for this! I am especially excited to hear your trip report from Central Market! I always just reuse bags rather than bring my own containers for their amazing bulk section. This is good news.

Here is what I can add about the other stores:

The Whole Foods downtown WILL take the tare weight off of your bulk purchases, but it is not advertised, and at times I've been discouraged by cashiers who do not know how to do it. Generally, I have to get a manager to come over and assist. Same at William Cannon location. The folks at the customer service desk by the produce department are usually a little less busy, can weigh your jars for you, and generally know how to deduct the tare when you're ready to check out (but, only good for 10 item or less trips). I have had bad luck with their refillable wine, as they only sell it in their jars at their increments, none of which are the size of the wine bottles I like to reuse. However, if you have a 24 ounce jar that is clearly marked as such, I guess you could use that. I know a butcher at the downtown WF who has filled jars for me, but it's always seemed to be more a personal favor type thing. I generally just avoid eating meat, for both this purpose and sustainability reasons.

Wheatsville is by far the easiest place to do bulk shopping. I love it when the cashiers lavish me with praise! I like to go for big bulk refill trips on the Owner Appreciation Days when everything is 10% off. They are missing a few things I like (powdered sugar, bulk fruit, as you noticed), but the benefits certainly outweigh those issues, especially because they have cat food, laundry detergent (sometimes), dish soap, Dr. Bronner's, etc. I just weigh my own containers at the little scale by the oils, available at both locations. I also love their selection of bulk beauty products. I'm a convert to the oil cleansing method, so I just bring back my little dropper bottles when they are empty and refill them with jojoba and almond oils. Hoping they get argan oil soon. I also make face masks out of their bulk clays.

In.gredients is good for occasional trips for specialty items like coconut oil, honey, cleaning products, and the yummy, but expensive Pedernales Falls wine. It costs $15 for a wine bottle refill. I guess they will also wrap cheese for you in paper, which is better than plastic. I do not find shopping there for my regular groceries economical.

Also, most microbreweries and beer bars will fill growlers: Uncle Billy's, NXNW, ABGB, Black Star Co-op, Whip-In, Pinthouse Pizza...

My PROBLEM ITEMS in Austin are as follows, restricted to items that are packaged in non-recyclable containers or plastic:

Milk. Nowhere to get it in glass from cows or plants. I tried switching to the local White Mountain yogurt in glass containers for most things, but I need milk for my coffee. I get the Mill-King local milk in plastic, because it is easier to recycle than those plastic-lined cartons.

Tofu. Wheatsville stopped carrying it in bulk, which makes me very sad. I get the type just wrapped in plastic as opposed to the plastic tub. Attempts at making my own have failed.

Cheese. In.gredients told me that there is some Texas law that means cheese *has* to be wrapped up for you, and I believe them because their whole business model is about having no packaging. I think they would do it if they could. I just buy the dang wrapped stuff, because we haven't been able to phase out parmesan or fresh mozzarella from our diets, and it's not economical for me to make a special trip out to In.gredients just for cheese. I've thought about ordering a cheese plates at some restaurants or bars and just shoving it into my tiffin, but that isn't economical, either. Best shot is salad bar grated items from Wheatsville.

Tortillas and tortilla chips. I can't phase these out, and my attempts to make them with masa have not worked. Those little plastic bags on the tortillas always make it into our garbage, along with the inner plastic lining of my chip bags. I recycle the paper layer on the outside.

Most Thai foods. It has been hard for me to phase these cuisines out because I lived in Thailand and most of the restaurants here have westernized things too much for my taste. I get the coconut milk in the can, but the jarred curry pastes are just wrong, and nearly all of the condiments and other things I love come in plastic. I'm sure I could develop a relationship with people at MT to get some stuff in bulk, but I have yet to work this out.

Ameliashannon Ameliashannon
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Re: bulk in Austin, TX

In reply to this post by Hayley G.
I just finished Bea's book and am working on my plan of action. I'm in Austin, TX so this thread is very helpful!  I'm stumped by the milk problem though. Does anyone know where I can find milk in glass bottles in Austin?  Or is there a milk delivery service that uses glass bottles? So far I have checked Sprouts on south Lamar, Wheatsville on south Lamar, both Central Markets. I haven't checked the Lamar Whole Foods yet, or in.gredients.
Susan Susan
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Re: bulk in Austin, TX

There is nowhere to get milk or dairy in glass bottles in Austin. It's a bummer for sure.
Amelia Amelia
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Re: bulk in Austin, TX

In reply to this post by Hayley G.
Hello,

I also live in Austin, TX and wanted to add another resource to this list - Austin Creative Reuse (austincreativereuse.org).
Their mission is to foster conservation thru creative reuse. You can find there lots of arts and craft supplies, office supplies, fabric, notions, paper goods in small packaging or even in bulk (like pipe cleaner for craft sold by the piece!), so you can buy only what you need. They are also a great place to donate any leftover materials you may have when you complete a project, therefore diverting it from the landfill (think half empty sheet of stickers!)

Amelia